A New Widow’s Christmas Card

The holiday cards I ordered arrived.  Maybe this year I’ll get them sent out.

For the past three years or so, I’ve gotten around to ordering them but never mailed them.  I wasn’t able to get my shit together.  I ordered them mid-December, paid extra for super rush shipping, and then was too caught up in last minute holiday preparations to send them out.

This year I’ll make it.

I like the cards — I think.

When I sent them to the printer’s, I was certain they were exactly what I wanted.  When I started to think about them, however, I wondered if they are wrong somehow.

There are no pictures of Trey.

All of the pictures are of the boys and me.  Mostly the boys.  A couple with me.  But none of Trey.

Will people think that is disrespectful?  Will his family want to have a card with his photo on it?  Maybe I should have included a picture of us at the Oregon Stonehenge, or our wedding photo, or that picture of him with the kids on Bring Your Own Cup day at 7-11.  Maybe there should be some sort of visual remembrance of him.

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For the words, however, I worry that I talk about him too much.  People don’t want to think of death when reading their holiday cards, right?  This is what I wrote:

I started with some general holiday pleasantries . . . hope this card finds you well, etc.

“This was a hard year for us, but we have family, friends and each other to see us through it.  As we make our way through the fog, we learn to love deeply, to hold on fiercely, and to be each other’s strength even while we feel weak.  We learn the strength of family, that it can be badly damaged and yet remain.  We learn that sadness may be with us, but joy is as well.  There is no end to the joy that can be experienced if you leave yourself open to it.  While we will always feel his absence, Trey’s love will be part of our hearts and of our lives forever.  We carry him with us as we continue our journey of love and life and joy.  We bid a loud “good riddance” to 2017 as we look forward, hand in hand, to the new year.”

After that is the usual accounting of our lives — what grades and activities the kids are in, what I am doing for work, blah blah blah.

Is that too much?  Is it too sappy?  Did it make our card too much about death?  I tried to make it about looking forward and continuing on life’s adventure, but maybe it is too depressing.

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Here I am, then, in a typical widow’s conundrum.  Did I say too much?  Did I say too little?  Will people think I’m dwelling too much on the loss?  Will people think I am not grieving enough?

Should I have included photos of Trey?  Should I have not mentioned him at all?  Should I have sent out plain store bought cards, and avoided this altogether?

I am happy with the cards, save some awkward wordings.  I look at it and I’d like to revise, but I had a hard time putting that together so I did not have a chance to edit it.  I feel like it would be a disservice to what we are going through to not mention it at all, but I didn’t want this to be a memorial to him.

I suppose some people will think it should have been a memorial, and they will be unhappy.  Others will think that my words are overly emotional and improper and they will be unhappy.

I am happy.  I am happy to be getting cards out this year.  Hopefully I will start receiving cards again.  (It’s a two way street.  You have to send them to get them.)  I am happy to have such lovely photos of us — if they are a bit overly touched up for my taste.  And I am happy with the message in these cards.

I suppose people who have a problem with it can kiss my jolly ass.

Happy Holidays!

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I Deleted His Porn

Let’s get personal!

Hopefully none of his family finds this blog.  Of course, if they do, it will not be a surprise to them that he had porn on the computer.  For a while, we owned a company that sold adult couples’ products, and went to the Adult convention in Las Vegas once or twice.  This was about a thousand years ago.  So for me to say there was adult content on our computer, well, that is a surprise to nobody.  Do all men have pornography files in their computers?  Do all widows at some point have to delete this stuff?  Am I the only one?

In the days after Trey’s death, I purged a lot of things.  Many of them were personal, couple-y things.  I got rid of all lingerie, etc.  I got rid of all his adult DVD’s.  (We don’t even have a DVD player, except I think the XBox plays them.)  I figured family was going to descend on my house, and people were going to help me clean and sort.  I knew my sex life was over.  I thought it would be a lot less awkward for everyone if any intensely personal items were gone.  It’s like that old joke, if I die here, go to my home, tell my wife I love her, and delete my browser history.

I thought I had pretty much gotten rid of everything sensitive, until the other day.  My desktop computer went kaput and a very nice school parent offered to help me fix/clean it up.  Well, that’s when it occurred to me there was probably adult content in that computer.  I couldn’t exactly send my computer over to another third grade parent when it might be filled with my husband’s rather impressive collection of pornography.  I mean, I’m sure he sees all kinds of stuff in people’s computers.  But still.  So I went on a search for video files, and sure enough there was a collection of films filed cleverly in a folder called “Work Financial Spreadsheets.”  I deleted them.

It just felt weird because this is something that was his.  And if he were still here, I’d have to explain why I was throwing away his things.  Getting rid of his work stuff wasn’t a problem, because it was his work stuff not “his” stuff.  Getting rid of his clothes didn’t bother me, because he had three closets of clothes and really wore the same four shirts over and over again.  I kept those four shirts, and knew he wouldn’t care about the rest of the clothes.  Most of the other things I got rid of were our things — our bedspread, our mantlepiece decorations, our espresso machine.

Getting rid of his Scarface picture felt a bit wrong, but was also cathartic as I was claiming my bedroom.

This was something that was his, not mine, and wasn’t in my way and I was strictly getting rid of it for utilitarian reasons.  So I deleted his porn from my computer.  The world did not end.  I did not have to explain to anybody why I was erasing the files he downloaded.  I feel very neutral about that decision.

I also deleted Halo and Call of Duty from the XBox..

This is funny.  The kids had a friend over and they were playing video games.  My kid suggested playing Halo.  I stopped them and said that game is for grown ups, and I only let them play it because their dad sometimes played it with them.  I asked the friend if he was allowed to play it, and he skirted the question.  I said I would check with his mom, and he decided to play Plants vs Zombies instead.

I got to thinking about it later.  I kept Halo because it felt wrong to say, “Your dad died and now you are no longer allowed to play the games you like.”  The thing is, though, I really do not want them playing those games.  Not yet.  And I never play them.  They give me motion sickness (don’t judge me.)  And I am the parent.  I am the only parent, and I can parent as I see fit.  I don’t have to consult Trey’s ghost.  I am not doing the kids a service by going against my instincts.  It is horrifying that they lost their dad, but letting them play a highly inappropriate video game in his honor won’t help or change that.  He wasn’t perfect, and one of the areas on which we disagreed was his belief that our seven year olds were somehow teenagers.

I did weenie out, however.  I deleted the games, along with a few we never use, while the kids were asleep.  At some point they’ll look for Halo and I’ll be like, “Whaaaaa?  It’s gone?  Did you try turning it off and back on again?  I have no idea.  Did you try logging in under your dad’s profile?  Wow I guess there was some kind of glitch.”  I feel good about this decision.

I suppose the point here is that my house is becoming progressively  more PG-Rated.

The Husbandless Holidays, Halloween Edition 

So it begins . . . Our first holiday season as a threesome.

I cannot even tell you how not okay this is.

I bought three pumpkins.  Well, six. I bought three big pumpkins for carving, and three pie pumpkins for painting.  Not for pie.  Gross.  I’m not someone who gets all jazzed about pumpkin spice.  I don’t even understand why people thing this is delicious or smells good or anything.

But I digress.  I was about to tell you how I almost wept in the arms of a sweet elderly lady at the grocery store.  Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word ‘elderly.’  I’m no spring chicken, and I do not know how old she is.  She’s older than me, though.  She commented on my cart full of pumpkins, and reminisced about carving pumpkins with her kids when they were young, and again with her grandkids.  I talked about how my boys won’t go near the pumpkin guts so I have to clean the pumpkins out before they will even consider having anything to do with the whole thing.

It was on the tip of my tongue, what had been on my mind all day:

“This will be our first Halloween since my husband died.”

I didn’t say it.  I almost said it.  I wanted to say it.  I didn’t.

Why didn’t I?  Part of it was that voice inside my head telling me that she doesn’t want to hear about it.  She’s having a lovely memory and doesn’t need my sadness invading her space.  It’s what keeps me from mentioning it wherever I go, even though I feel like it’s branded on my forehead.

“This will be our first Halloween without my husband.”

I kept it in.  The other reason?  I knew that if I said the words out loud, I would cry.  I would cry, and I would not stop.  I would slobber big snotty drooly tears all over this poor unsuspecting stranger.  In the middle of Safeway.  On a Monday afternoon.

Instead, I continued the pleasantries, swapping stories of trick or treat and candy bellyaches.  I loaded up the six pumkins

six, not eight

and sat in my car and sobbed.

I thought of the missing pumpkins, about family costumes in years past, of the couple’s costume we had planned for the next time we had a grown up party to go to.  I remembered his idea to dress up the twins as Daft Punk this year and how he was going to help them build their helmets.  I tried to maintain that concept, but none of us had our hearts in it and it fizzled.  I remembered how much work he put into helping H with his costume last year.  I thought about how Halloween is not so far from February, and how last Halloween we absolutely had no idea the end was coming.  How we were still getting settled into our neighborhood and how we were using this as a reason to meet the neighbors.  How he insisted on getting full sized candy bars.

I looked to the future Halloweens, all of them with pumpkins in multiples of three.  The kids and I may do a family costume, but there are no couple’s costumes in my future.

I sobbed and sobbed until my eyes felt like they were bleeding.  I must have sat in that parking lot for 45 minutes trying to get a hold of myself enough to drive home.

I wish I had told that stranger.  Maybe if I had told her, I’d have wished I hadn’t.  But I think it would have felt better to say it to someone.  The holidays.  Wow.  It is going to be harder than I anticipated.  I knew they would be difficult; I’m not an idiot.  But Trey was a real grinch about the holidays.  I mean, once the boys were born he upgraded from Full-On-Grinch to Grudging-Good-Sport.  He recognized the importance of holidays for the kids.

It was always me, however, making the holidays happen, bulldozing them into our lives whether anybody else wanted them or not.  Trey liked Halloween, but even then his enthusiasm was limited to selecting a costume.  I put out the decorations, and shopped for more.  I made costumes.  I carved pumpkins.  I put together Halloween crafts for the kids.  I played Halloween music and watched scary movies.  He treated the holidays like they were any other day, as much as he could in the midst of my obsessions.  I therefore thought that his presence would not be missed much more than it is any other day.

That’s a nopefish.

This is horrifying — going through the holidays without him.

We went to the school carnival, where my mom accompanied us and watched the kids while I volunteered at a booth.  We went to the Boy Scouts Halloween party with my parents, but we didn’t know anyone else so we collectively posted up at a table.  We went trick or treating with my mom.  There was nobody at our house to hand out candy.  Finally, yesterday I went to a grown ups Halloween party where I only knew the host.

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That’s me in the middle.

It was fun, but also lonely.

What is the rest of the holiday going to look like?

Thanksgiving is coming.  Thank goodness, my parents host T-day.  All I will have to do is get the kids dressed and show up for dinner.  Trey didn’t like turkey, or stuffing, or cranberries.  He didn’t care for going somewhere to eat.  He’d rather stay home.  He was always friendly about it, however, coming with me and eating too much and falling asleep in a chair like the other men.  He was also there to do the driving so I could have slightly too much wine.  It will be so odd not having him there.

Then, Christmas.  Holy shit.  Christmas we host at our house.

Once again, he was a grinch.  He didn’t participate in the decorating or the planning, or in much of the cooking.  But he indulged me.  He was there to help put the decorations near the top of the tree.  He was there to help lug boxes in and out of the garage, and to help me find extension cords, because they are never where you think you left them.  When he really shone was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

He would spend the entire month of December specifically pretending it wasn’t Christmas.  I did the decorating and the shopping and the gift selecting and wrapping.  I would handle the cards and the lights and the menu and the guest list.  I would watch Christmas movies, above the loud protests of my family.  On Christmas Eve, however, he would bake cookies for Santa.  He would sit on the floor with me all night, as we assembled whatever nonsense I decided to get for the kids that was made of a million small pieces with a single sheet of instructions.  We’d each take one item and race to see who could get it assembled first.  He would help hang the stockings and we would share some scotch to congratulate ourselves on successfully preparing for Christmas, before falling into bed at three a.m.

On Christmas Day, he was glorious.  Excited to see the kids get excited, he would wake at about five — or perhaps he never slept — and would WAKE THE KIDS.  Who does that?  Then as guest after guest (mostly my family, but sometimes some of his) entered our home, he was the perfect host.  Hosting is not my strong suit.  Planning is.  Once people are in my home I come dangerously close to falling apart.  He always stepped up, offering drinks and cooking some sort of appetizer he had decided at the last minute that he needed to cook.

What will this year be like, without him?

Halloween was fun.  But it was also sad.  I have not cried as much this month as I did the first month after he died, but I have cried at least half that much, and that is a LOT.

 

I don’t know how the rest of the holidays are going to go.  I’ve ordered Christmas cards and will be sending those out.  They have lovely photos of, you know, the three of us.  I could write a whole post about that.  Maybe I will.

But not today.

Travelling Alone – Yippee or Boohoo?

Both!

This was work travel.  I was to drive for three hours (which always turns into five) to a town in a neighboring state to measure  building for a client.

This is something I used to do in my days as a younger Architect.  I took 1-2 day business trips, by car or by plane, to measure sites and buildings and sometimes to meet with City Officials.  It was always kind of scary.  It is always kind of scary for a woman traveling alone.  I assume.  I had always thought I was being timid or paranoid, but recent events on social media, as well as living in the world and talking to other people, have taught me that many women are uncomfortable traveling alone.

This time it was scarier than I remember it being.  Is it because I haven’t traveled alone in years, and I simply must get used to it again?  Maybe.

Is it because my previous trips were mainly in the midwest, and now I am in more metropolitan areas?  That may have something to do with it.

Is it because being married, even if my husband is not physically with me in the car, gives a sense of security?  Probably to some extent.

It’s a combination of those things.  I wasn’t in terror the whole time or anything, but I was nervous at some points along the way.  I didn’t like how isolated the hotel was, and was nervous being in the empty abandoned store all day.

In truth, however, I was looking forward to it.

A night away from the kids, in a hotel, where I wouldn’t have the option, much less the compulsion, to feel guilty for not doing the dishes or painting the walls or folding laundry.

A “night off” from being a widowed single mom.

A night to myself.

Just one.

I imagined listening to my new Kevin Hearne book in my Jeep on the way to the hotel.  I imagined checking in late afternoon, maybe checking out a local tourist attraction before dark.  I imagined getting room service or having food delivered.  I imagined swimming in the hotel pool or taking a long hot bath.  I imagined watching TV propped up on those hotel-y pillows that hotels have.

I knew better, but I still imagined that.

The reality was that my client prefers I get a rental car.  I was able to listen to my new book, but had to listen through a tinny bluetooth speaker I have because the radio in the rental doesn’t play media off of non-apple devices.

The reality was that I checked in around 9:00 at night.

The reality was that it was a Comfort Inn.  I toyed with the idea of asking the client if they would be okay with me staying at a luxury hotel if I billed them for a Comfort Inn stay, but decided not to broach that subject since this was my first trip for them.  This client prefers to pay directly for the hotel.  So I was booked in a Comfort Inn.  I checked for bedbugs, and found the bed and the room to appear clean.  Obviously there was no room service.  There was also no list of restaurants that delivered to the area.

The reality also was that I am on a diet.  I had brought my diet food with me.  Rather than search for an hour for local food delivery to the hotel, I just ate my diet food.

The reality was that the pool was closed, and the hot tub was weird and smelled odd.  I was a trooper and got in the hot tub anyway, and then showered right afterward to avoid getting a yeast infection or typhoid or something.

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The reality was, who wants to take a luxurious bath in a Comfort Inn tub?

The reality was that the TV got six channels.

The reality was that the hotel wifi was unsecured so I did not feel comfortable logging in and getting work done.

I went to bed at 10:30 watching reruns of The Family Guy and feeling like the loneliest person in the world.

It was nice to have the time to myself.  It was nice to car-cry and to go to bed without unfinished chores calling to me.

It was good to wake up alone.  I love my kids, and most days it makes my heart happy (even when I’m grumbling about the hour) to have them wake me in the mornings, or for me to wake them.  It was grand, however, just once, to wake up and just be me.  I wouldn’t be able to access the site until mid morning, so I woke and puttered around, putzed with the in room coffee maker, etc.  I padded down to the free breakfast in my jammies.  The free breakfast was not awesome, but I’ve had worse.  I got my stuff packed and ready to go.

My stuff.

Not my kids’ things.  Not even my husband’s things.  I was not in charge of finding anybody else’s lost socks or making sure everyone went potty and remembered their drinks for in the car.  I did not have to stop anybody from fighting with each other. There was no “five more minutes of this show” or “hold on honey let me check my email one more time.”  When I decided it was time to leave, I picked up my bag and my purse and I walked out the door.

Lonely, but awesome.  Simple.  So simple.

I then worked all day and got back in the car — some more Kevin Hearne, some more car crying.

Overall, I give the experience a B+.  I felt like a real member of the adult working community — not as a ‘mom’ or a ‘working mom’ or a ‘work at home mom’ or a ‘wife’ or a ‘widow.’  Nobody in this place knew or cared about those roles.  I was a person on a work trip.  I was a professional doing my job.  It has been a long time since I have felt that so strongly.  It was lonely and sad for part of the trip, but lonely and sad is where I live much of the time.  It was good to get out and about.

Next time I will see if I can arrange for a better hotel situation.  I have a hankering for a $10 room service candy bar.

Judging a Widow? Keep Your Effing Opinions to Yourself

I’m not sure whether curse words in the title are frowned upon.

I think the point is clear.  You can keep your judgement, your disapproving looks, and your obvious vaguebook insults to yourself.

We don’t need it.

I shouldn’t have to say this.  It should go without saying.  Don’t harass a widow about how she is handling her widowhood. It doesn’t go without saying, however.  It has to be said.  Many people apparently do not have the sense to know this on their own.  I have spoken with other widows my age, and have read blogs and articles written by others, and it seems everyone has at least one person in their life who has decided they are the authority on grieving and on widowhood, and is quick to point out – emphatically – how we are doing it incorrectly.

It’s often someone we care about, or that our husbands cared about.

It’s so deeply hurtful.

Widow-shamers come in two basic camps.

Actually, technically there is a third camp, I will mention only briefly because they are well-intentioned.  We all have sweet, caring people in our lives who hate to see us hurt and want to help ‘fix’ it.  They want us to snap out of it.  They want us to join the world.  Sometimes they want us to start dating.  To these people I say we thank you for your love and support, but please understand that to try to fix us implies there is something wrong.  There is nothing wrong with being sad when your spouse dies.  We have to be sad.  We have to be sad in order to learn how to live with our sadness.  Please stop trying to abbreviate the process.  We need it.

The title of this blog is aimed at the other two types of judges.  One type feels that the widow’s handling of things has somehow harmed them personally.  The other type feels she is not being widow-y enough and is disrespecting the dead.

Here’s the thing.  Please understand this.

MY GRIEF IS NOT A PERFORMANCE I AM PUTTING ON FOR YOU OR FOR ANYONE ELSE.

Also . . .

IT IS NOT MY JOB TO FULFILL YOUR IMAGE OF WHAT A GRIEVING WIDOW SHOULD BE.

It was a revelation to me that people would take personal issue with how a woman carries out the final wishes of her husband.  Personally, I have had several people pointedly mention that they feel they didn’t get closure (whatever that means) because I cremated the body before anyone saw him.  I have not been directly attacked, but on two separate occasions, two different people pointed out that they keep thinking they will see Trey or get a call from him.  Apparently this is because I did not have a viewing at the memorial.  It was implied that I have an easier time of accepting his death because I saw his body, and that I robbed them of this comfort.

You know what?  I saw the body.  It’s not that awesome of an experience.  I wouldn’t recommend it.  At all.

Did seeing his body make it easier for me to accept his death than if I had not?  Perhaps.  I’ve never been on the other side of that coin so I do not know if I experienced some benefit from having witnessed it with my own eyes.

I can say this.  I saw him dead.  I saw how the blood had pooled in his extremities.  I performed cpr.  I wept into his cold shoulder, stroked his cold forehead.  It is now eight months later.  Eight months I have been living in the house we shared, his absence a constant presence.  Still, I often expect to see him come down the stairs.  If that is not enough to hammer it home that he is gone, I doubt that your seeing him in a casket would help you.  We each need to find our own ways to peace.  I will help where I can, but not at the expense of what I need, what my husband wanted, or what our kids need.

I also, unfortunately, had a falling out with someone very close to us.  You may have seen my post about the viking funeral at which I scattered my husband’s ashes in the ocean.  I will not get into the details here, but will say that there was a misunderstanding where a dear friend of ours was legitimately hurt when he learned I had done the viking funeral with just the kids and did not include him or any other family members.  I thought everyone had understood my intentions, but he did not and he was hurt.  I understand his pain and feel sorry for the misunderstanding that caused it, but I will not apologize for handling the scattering how I did.  I did not do it this way to hurt him or anyone else, but because this is what my kids and I needed.  The real tragedy for me is that this friend does not understand I was doing what I needed, and instead felt I deliberately misled him about my intentions.  He said some hurtful things, I responded harshly, we parted ways and now I no longer have what had been a major source of support.

The final arrangements are deeply personal and specific to each circumstance.  I could not imagine having a viewing, with Trey all waxed and painted.  It would have been awful for me to see him that way.  It would have been awful for the kids.  They also had unfortunately already seen his body.  They didn’t need to see any more of that.  Furthermore, he specifically did not want that.  He told everyone he knew and wrote in his will that he wanted to be cremated in the cheapest way possible.  He didn’t want funereal expenses to cut into the money that could go to supporting his family after his passing.  He also would have found it humiliating to be laid out that way.  I handled the cremation, memorial, and scattering exactly how he would have wanted it, and how was best for our family.  None of it was easy.  None of it.  So unless your opinion is, “Wow, I can’t believe you were able to handle all of that while dealing with your grief.  I am astounded by you.  If you need anything, I am here.  You did exactly right by him,” you can just keep your fucking opinion to yourself.

If it were just about me and my experiences, however, I wouldn’t even write this post.  I’m not trying to put a lot of anger out there, or self righteousness.

The thing is, it’s not just me.  I have a friend who is four months widowed and has not yet had her husband’s memorial.  She is catching the same kind of flack as I did for having a cremation instead of a viewing, and family members are actually yelling at her for not hosting a memorial yet.  She has stated that they can hold a memorial if they want, whatever they need to do.  But she is not ready yet, financially or emotionally.  Still they tell her it is just not right.

I know another woman who did have a viewing but did not dress her husband in a suit.  Guess what?  People were upset.  I know a widow who had upbeat music playing and encouraged everyone to wear bright colors.  Most people were on board but, again, there were people who were offended.

We do not mean to offend.  We are doing what we need.  I’m not telling you to not be offended.  I’m telling you to keep that shit to yourself.  Telling us won’t change things, and will just make us feel worse.  As if that were possible.

Now I come to the worst of the worst — those who proclaim loudly, to our faces or behind our backs, that we do not appear to be mourning or that we are moving on too quickly or some otherwise judgy notion that comes down to the idea that they don’t believe we are really grieving.

Shut the FUCK UP!

Widowhood doesn’t look like weeping in a dark room hidden under a black veil.

Do you want to see widowhood?  Come with me for a day.  Widowhood means making breakfast and driving the kids to school, singing along with the radio, getting haircuts and doing laundry and celebrating holidays and going to the zoo and laughing and living and loving those around you.  It also looks like crying at the sink, crying in the car, staring at the wall, comfort eating too much junk food, not eating at all, fits of terror that you will lose someone else, too.  And, yes, widowhood can look like a vacation to Hawaii, or Cozumel.  I have two widow friends who have taken such holidays.  They both have caught SO MUCH SHIT for “partying it up” while everyone else mourns the loss of their husbands.

Imagine this.

Your husband dies.  You now spend every day in the home you bought together.  You cook every meal (every single meal, because there is nobody else to cook) at the oven in which you baked cookies as a family.  You keep up with the daily routine: cooking, cleaning, homework, bills, work.  You make sure you don’t run out of toilet paper or shampoo.  You make sure the kids get to bed at a reasonable time.  You wake up every morning.  You push forward every day, taking care of your family and yourself.

Now imagine you have an opportunity to leave all of that behind for a few days.  For a week, someone else will do all of the cooking, and all of the cleaning.  You will be in a new place, somewhere that isn’t constantly assaulting you with memories.  You will be where nobody knows you, where you will not have to apologize for your emotions, where nobody knew your husband.  You will have no obligations, just for a few days.

You can heal.  You can be sad when you need to and laugh when you need to and eat when you want to and sleep as much as you can.  You can call the memories when you want, and sob yourself to sleep.  You can also go out and laugh to cleanse your soul.  It’s not a woman partying her buns off because she’s newly single.  It’s a woman who needs a safe place to focus on her own pain, her own life, and begin healing.

Not that you deserve an explanation.  But there it is.

Even if a widow is not able to take a vacation, you might see a lot of social activity suddenly hit her feed.  You should be glad that she is trying to find herself, that she is reaching out to friends and engaging in activities to keep her from growing stagnant at home alone.  If your response instead is, “She shouldn’t be out having all of that fun.  She’s supposed to be in mourning,” well, again, you can keep your fucking opinions to yourself.

I used to sit at home every night, with my husband who loved me.  We would rent Netflix and share some scotch.  We would watch The Walking Dead and Supernatural and we would play Cards Against Humanity.  But he is gone now.  I can’t sit by myself and watch TV every night.  I’d like to.  I’m a homebody.  But it is not good for me to stay home all of the time, and it is not good for my kids to see me staying home all of the time.  It is not good for the kids to stay home all of the time.

So, yes, you will see on my feed that I am going to movies and to game nights, that the kids and I are going to soccer games and state fairs. We are not trying to forget about Trey.  We are honoring him by enjoying and making the most of the life he no longer shares with us.

I know women who started dating after the first six months, and women who are not dating five years later.  I know women who got rid of their husband’s belongings, and women who kept most of them.  I know women who removed their rings the first day, and women who wore them for years.

All of these women were criticized by someone in their lives who felt they were not doing the right thing.

There is no right thing.  There is only what the widow feels in her heart is the NECESSARY thing.  We are doing the best we can.  We don’t need the additional stress of trying to please you.

#MeToo and the Recently Widowed

I’m not going to share my own metoo stories.  Suffice it to say I have them, as does almost every woman everywhere.

What I would like to discuss is a revelation I was in the midst of having when the metoo movement started.

Jesus, it’s scary out there for single women.

It’s scary enough for married women.  I always check my backseat before opening the car door.  I lock the car as soon as I get in.  I only wear one headphone when I go for a walk.  Being married, however, much like being plain or overweight, can provide a somewhat false sense of security.  Knowing that I had a husband at home, or upstairs, or right next to me, reduced the feelings of constant fear that come with being a woman.

I didn’t realize how much less my fear was until that security blanket was gone.

I am planning a couple of road trips, family vacations with me and the boys.  I hesitate.  Is it safe?  Can a woman and her kids travel, stay in a hotel, eat in roadside diners?  I have never had this fear before.  Trey was always with us.

We are home alone every night.  When the neighborhood dogs bark, what are they barking at?  If I hear people talking loudly in the street, should I be afraid?  Should I call 911?  I can’t go and investigate.  I have to sit inside my house and wait for the noises to go away.

I take my dog for walks, and wonder if I should carry pepper spray.  I’ve determined I cannot bring myself to carry a gun.

When my husband died and my fear of being victimized expanded, I realized that men don’t have these fears.  I never thought about it before.  But when I noticed how much my own fears had been dampened just by the presence of a man in my life, when I realized how it becomes almost paralyzing —

How is it that we all are not agoraphobic?

I know lots of single women, and women who travel for work, etc. without an escort.  How do they do it?  How do they overcome the fear and get out there?

Men don’t have this fear, and that blows me away.  With the current dialogue around the #metoo postings, it has become clear that not only do men not have these fears, many of them are not aware of it.  They have no idea that just being a man makes them safe.  That they are so safe compared to us that just having a trusted man in our lives mutes the fear that infuses our every day. How is that possible?

The Fireplace Mantle as a Metaphor

Our mantelpiece had, among other things, a replica of the helmet from Gladiator.  This was not my selection.  I don’t even like that movie.  It also boasted a host of different Buddha statues and Foo Dogs acquired at different China Towns.  I have nothing against these items, but I would not have chosen to decorate with another culture’s aesthetic.  The mantel held a smattering of other items, unrelated to one another.

It sounds hideous, but it did not look bad.  After Trey died, I removed some pieces to pare down the clutter, but I left up the larger decorative items and this was the result:

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See?  Sounds awful and bachelor-y.  It is a bit bachelor-y, but it is not awful.

But it is also not me.

Whenever buying items for our home, I wanted to plan, to get a strategy in place to avoid clashing items and generate a cohesive design.  My desire was to identify a theme and palette that would inform our purchasing decisions.  He, on the other hand, would go to Chinatown or Ikea or Target, see something, buy it, and hang it on the wall.  The result was an interior design that leaned much more toward his aesthetic than it did toward mine.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided all that stuff on the mantel had to go.

In fact, I am redecorating the whole house as time and budget allows.  Again this has been met with alarm by my family.  They think I am purging, but I’m not getting rid of anything. I’m just getting it out of my face.

Here’s the hard truth of the matter.

Trey doesn’t live here anymore.  This is my house now, and I need it to be my house.  

I’m not trying to erase all evidence of him.  I’m not trying to make it look like he never lived here.  This place will always carry his mark.  Our lives and hearts will carry his mark.  No matter where we go or what we do, he will be with us.

That doesn’t change the fact that I need to make this place my own.  It started in the bedroom, and now I am taking over the living room.  I’d like to replace some of the furniture, but, you know, dollar bills.  For now I can re-do the fireplace mantel.

That is the justification.  Now let me tell you what happened.

I took all of his things off the mantel and put them in the guest room closet.  It was then a clean canvas for me to decorate however I wanted.  The problem was that I had absolutely no idea what was I wanted to do.

Isn’t that the shit?  It’s a metaphor for my whole life.  I wrote a post a while back about needing to find myself.  I won’t go into all of that again here, although I could easily write three more entries about that process.  I’ll give you the tl;dr version.  When you’ve been with someone for your entire adult life and suddenly find yourself without that person, you need to put serious time and effort into exploring who you are as an individual.

My mantel looked like this:

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It was a perfect reflection of me.  I had plenty of ideas for what to put there, but didn’t know if I felt passionately about any of them.  I considered gathering my gnomes from around the house.  I thought about arranging a Funko Pop display, or of covering it with family photos or with flowers.  I even considered decorating it with “Architect’y” things like T-Squares and Prismacolor pencils.   It all seemed fine, but didn’t feel quite right.

This is exactly what happens to me when my folks keep the kids overnight and I can do whatever I want for the evening.  I have no idea what to do.  I think about going to a movie, going out to eat, taking a bath and reading, or cleaning the house from top to bottom.  I usually wind up having some edibles and dozing off watching TV.  (Which is a luxury to a single mom of twins, I’m not knocking it.)

Suddenly it hit me.  I would decorate seasonally.  Halloween is coming up, so I present to you my current fireplace mantel design:

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After Halloween, I’ll do a general Autumn theme until after Thanksgiving.  That’s when I’ll pull out the crates and crates of holiday decorations.  After Christmas, I”m not sure — perhaps some general winter display?  Add in some hearts for Valentine’s day, and then after that a spring motif?  My plan is pretty much to hit the seasonal department of the Dollar Store and will decorate with whatever they have.  I may even extend this to include outdoor decorations.  I will be that weird old lady who has yard decorations for Presidents’ Day.

At first I felt like this was a cop-out.  I thought I was delaying making a real decision.

Then I realized this is actually perfect.  Again it is like my life.  I am getting through this one day, one season, one holiday at a time.  I’m not committing to anything, ever.  I’m not looking ahead more than a couple of weeks at any time.

I’m trying different things.  A book club, a board game club, a coffee club.  I’m not any one thing yet.  I’m exploring.  My interior decorations don’t have to be any one thing yet either.  This is me now.

I can always round up the gnomes if I decide to do so.

 

I Guess I Won’t be Wearing my Wedding Ring Anymore

In a sweeping move of what is either irony or kismet, the universe decided I should lose the diamond out of my wedding ring today.

Stoneless
The diamond fell out of my wedding ring

Look at this picture, and realize that this was not just my wedding ring.  That solitaire was my engagement ring.  By which I mean it is the engagement ring he placed on my finger as we were turning eighteen years old.  That stone has endured for 23 years, through two ring re-sizings, through ring welding, through construction sites, through hospital stays, through trips to oceans and lakes and through snowball fights.

Now it decides to give up the ghost?  This is definitely a sign of some sort.

There is no obvious sign of trauma to the ring.  None of the tines are bent into an unnatural position.  None are broken or missing.

As I was driving the kids to school this morning, I glanced at my hand on the steering wheel and the stone was just . . . gone.

Like Trey.  One minute he was here, and I was talking to him on the phone.  Four hours later I get home to find him gone, with no idea when he died or how it happened.  My stone is gone.  I assume I had it yesterday, so it may be in my bedroom having dropped out during the night.  It may have gone down the kitchen drain this morning while I was making breakfast and washing dishes.  It may have plopped to the ground as I carried the trash to the curb.  Maybe I saw it the second it fell out, and the diamond is currently on my car floorboard.  Again, there’s about a four hour window in which it likely happened.

I have performed an initial search, but looking for such a small thing when I don’t know exactly where I lost it has turned out to be challenging.

But at least it is essentially transparent.  That helps.

I have taken a blacklight to the most likely areas.  I have no idea what a diamond would do under a blacklight, but you’d think it would do SOMETHING.

BTW – I highly recommend you do NOT ever randomly search your house with a blacklight.  I’m disgusted and want to move.  And get rid of the pets.  And the kids.  This place is disgusting.

The strange thing is I am not as distraught as I would have expected, considering I was fully planning to wear that ring for the rest of my life.

I was never going to take it off.  I consider myself to still be married.  I think of all those buddy cop movies: “Janet’s been dead for two years, man!  When are you going to take off that ring and move on?”  “Never!  She’s still my wife!”  That was my feeling about it.  I’m still his wife.  I wear the ring.

Now, however, I realize that wearing the ring is not that important to me.  Taking off the ring would have been too difficult.  Removing the ring would have felt like a rejection of our life together.  Putting the ring away would have been closing the door on our marriage.

This is different, though.  I did not decide to move on and remove the ring.  It broke so I put it away.

Surprisingly, my ring is not on the list of things that have grown in importance since Trey’s death.  Our wedding photos and the memories they preserve hold a top spot on the list.  The comic books we waited in line for together, the personalized belts he had made for the kids, the gold chain he wore around his neck, his grandfather’s medals, all of these are on the list of the most important mementos I never want to lose.  The ring is a piece of jewelry.

Now I have a reason to take it off, a reason that is utilitarian and not gut wrenchingly awful, I may leave it off.  It may be okay.  My hand is a wreck.  I think that dent in my finger will remain always.

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Now my left hand looks like this.

Of course, like most things in my life, this is not a permanent choice.  Death is permanent.  The decision of whether to wear a ring is not permanent.  If I go without it for a while and it feels strange, if I feel something is missing, if I feel lonely or sad, I can have the ring repaired.  Obviously I’m not Daddy Warbucks so I won’t be purchasing a random diamond.  I do have some diamond earrings I can probably take the stone from, or I can replace it with zirconia or a semiprecious stone.  It might look pretty with an amethyst.  Or, maybe I can sell those diamond earrings to buy a replacement diamond for the ring.

That probably makes more sense than re-using a diamond and then having one ring and one earring.

But the thing is, even though I was not really ready to remove it, I also do not think I am at a place where I need to go to lengths to preserve it and get it back on my finger.

For right now, however, I suppose I will just see how it goes.

He’s Even Gone From My Pantry

He’s not entirely gone, but he’s going.

Before being widowed, I had some idea of what it would be like if it were to happen.  Am I the only one who indulges in these morbid fantasies?  I don’t think I am, because it happens so often in movies.  Other people must sometimes also think, “what if the unthinkable happens?  What would that be like?”

You know that half of the bed will be empty.

You know his spot on the sofa will be taken over.

You know his chair at the dinner table will go unused.

You know your life will change so dramatically that you won’t be able to understand it.

You don’t know all of the tiny things that will change, reflecting his absence in tiny ways.

I have just today realized that you can see his absence by viewing the contents of our pantry.  Of my pantry.

(This isn’t a euphemism.)

Our pantry used to be full of canned chili.  He loved chili in all of its forms, but I rarely made it so our pantry was stocked with chunky chili, smooth chili, with and without beans, hot and mild.

We also owned an inordinate amount of hot sauce.  And different types of French and Russian salad dressings.  And chips.  There were always corn chips in our pantry.  And candy.  He had a sweet tooth.  We had white bread.

I made Frito Chili Pie last night, with the last of our canned chili.  I donated much of it to a food drive.  I was the only person who ate it.  The kids don’t like chili.  They don’t like chili dogs, or chili on spaghetti.  They just don’t like it.  So all those cans of chili are gone.  Likewise the cans upon cans of different types of beans — maple beans, ranch style beans, baked beans.

I tossed most of the hot sauces.  I’ve gotten old and prone to heartburn.

I made a conscious decision to only buy chips sometimes, to go with a specific meal or event.  I can’t say no to chips, so it’s best they not do the asking.

I did not make a conscious decision to stop buying sweets.  I just never think about it.  The kids have had to ask me to buy candy, or the makings of root beer floats.  Poor guys.

I switched us all to entirely whole wheat bread, and nobody complained.

All those maple beans have been replaced with plain pinto beans, vegetarian refried beans, and garbanzo beans.

The pantry is filling up with whole grains.  Trey and I always did high protein diets together.  He got the best results from them.  Now, however, I am returning to a more plant based diet, and the jars of various grains now replenished in the pantry reflect that.

The French and Russian dressings are gone.  Blech.

There is no Spam.  There is tuna.  There is no ramen.  There is penne.

The fridge is the same.  American cheese has been replaced with provolone.  Steak has been replaced with hamburger.  Heinz ketchup has been replaced with Hunts.  Spicy barbecue sauce has been replaced with the honey variety.

It sounds like small changes, but every time I open the pantry I see his absence.  It does not distress me much, but it serves as a reminder with every meal that the whole of our life is changed.

Sick Kids and the Widow

This is more of a general parenting rant than a widow rant.  It is true, however, that I am not just a widow.  It is also true that this situation is complicated by my new status as a single parent.

My kids are sick, and so am I.

First K got sick, over the weekend.  He was worst on Saturday and a bit better on Sunday.  I planned to send the kids to school Monday, but he had been up hacking and coughing most of the night.  Plus his brother seemed to be getting sick so I kept them both home for an extra day of rest.

By “rest,” I mean “almost twelve straight hours of Minecraft while I try to work and to recover the house from all the birthday mess.”

I told them they were definitely going to school today.

Then at midnight last night, H woke up crying and screaming because his nose was so stuffy he couldn’t breathe and his throat hurt so bad when he coughed.  He came to my bed.

This morning I woke to the sound of him still snuffling uncomfortably, miserably fighting to stay asleep.  I was also snuffly and felt like my head could explode at any minute.  I knew K was well enough to go to school, but . . .

I didn’t want to pull H out of bed to get dressed and get in the car so we could take K to school.  This is where single parenting comes in.  When Trey was alive, one of us would have stayed home while the other dropped K off at school.  Now, I did think of calling my folks to come and stay with H while he slept.

But here’s the thing about help from others:  you need so much of it, when you’re widowed, when you’re unexpectedly single.  Every day it seems I’m asking my parents for help.  So when you can get by without asking for yet another thing, you try.

Plus I did not particularly feel like getting up either.

I had this wild parent fantasy that if I called both kids out sick that we would snuggle up in the bed together, sleep until ten, then move to the sofa downstairs with a box of kleenex, some blankets and Netflix.  So I called both boys out sick.

What was I thinking?!?!?  Am I a total noob at this parenting thing?

H was already up and out of bed by the time I finished calling the school.  He is definitely sick and I’m glad I kept him home, but if he was going to get out of bed anyway I would have brought K to school.  I thought about hauling them all out to the car right then, but by that point it was getting pretty late and would have been a rush.

So we stayed home.  One perfectly healthy kid and his sick and cranky (but not sleepy) brother.  Plus their sick mom.

I have elected to not keep alcohol in the house since Trey died, mainly because I find it difficult to resist a nightcap, and then I get all sad about drinking alone.  But after the kids’ party I got a bottle of bourbon.  So it’s sitting on the shelf, and I keep thinking of it longingly.  My head is pounding.  My eyeballs feel like there is sand in them.  My nose and eyes are leaking nonstop.  I want to wrap up in a blanket, sip some warm bourbon, and binge watch Supernatural.  Or at least to wrap up in a blanket with my kids, sip some orange juice and binge watch something of their choosing.

Instead I’m making lunch, fetching juice, refereeing arguments, putting away groceries, feeding the dog, doing laundry, and trying to put in a solid half day of work.

It’s such a cliche.  When everyone is sick, mom takes care of them.  When mom is sick, she still takes care of everyone else.  Granted, I’m doing it in a very minimal fashion.  So far today the kids have watched Captain Underpants and about a hundred episodes of the Thundermans, and have been on their tablets for about an hour now with half an hour left to go.

I’d better get to work!